What does pacifism mean in Christianity?

Pacifists reject all violence. They do not think that conflict should be dealt with by resorting to war. They think that other peaceful methods should be used.

The early Christians interpreted Jesus' commandments to mean that they could not fight in wars or be violent. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said:

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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.Matthew 5:9

They also look to the example of Jesus' life for further reasons to be pacifists. When the guards came to arrest Jesus he did not fight back and he commanded his disciples to allow him to be taken.

Pacifists also use the teaching in the Ten Commandments to justify their position. In Exodus it says:

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Do not murder.Exodus 20:13

Today there are pacifists in most Christian denominations. Some Christian denominations teach their members that pacifism is the only acceptable response to violence. Some examples of pacifist groups are the Mennonites, the Amish and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

How does the Religious Society of Friends work for peace?

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is a pacifist group that has worked for peace since its creation in the 17th century. Quakers usually refer to themselves as 'Friends'. They believe that there is something sacred in everyone and that violence should always be avoided.

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Friends' opposition to all forms of violence imposes on them the responsibility to seek alternative responses to conflict and injustice.Quaker Faith and Practice, 24.38

Friends have historically refused to take part in wars. In World War One and World War Two they became conscientious objectors. In 1947, Friends in Britain and the US won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work helping victims of conflict in Germany, Europe and Asia after World War Two. They provided food aid and helped to rebuild areas that had been badly damaged.

Some examples of the work that Friends do today include:

  • campaigning and encouraging countries to get rid of nuclear weapons and other lethal weapons
  • training groups around the world in non-violent methods of conflict resolution
  • protesting against wars and violent actions in their own countries
  • sending volunteers to areas of conflict to support local peace activists
  • keeping offices at the United Nations, an organisation which brings different nations together to discuss issues such as nuclear weapons and peace